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UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero with Under Armour CEO Kevin Polak, holding a Bruin basketball jersey after signing off on their record deal. Photo courtesy of veooz.com
ONE GUY’S OPINION OF THE MASSIVE DEAL THAT UCLA SIGNED WITH UNDER ARMOUR AND ITS IMPACT AS FAR AS ITS ATHLETES
When I heard about my collegiate alma mater making the biggest shoe and apparel deal in NCAA history, to the tune of $280 million, a few things entered my thoughts:
1. Make sure the new gear is affordable, with no $250 shoes or $150 jerseys or $65 t-shirts.
2. Make sure that no sweatshops paying a dollar or less for a 14-hour work day – either in this country or (especially) abroad – is ever involved in the making of these shoes and apparel.
3. PLEASE don’t have any multiple alternate-jersey football games; one per season is enough, preferably a throwback game as the uniforms depicting the 1967 Bruins worn in 2007 were cool.
One “black-out” game in lieu of that would be fine as well, but I’m frankly tired of all the gray and charcoal gray jerseys and helmets that Adidas did in recent years strictly to boost sales – the UCLA colors are True Blue and Gold, and that needs to be emphasized forever.
After all, you never see the New York Yankees not wear pinstripes at home, or chief Bruin rival USC ever change its football uniforms. Why should that be the case in Westwood?
UCLA’s softball team, chilling in the dugout as they will face top-ten Oregon in the NCAA Super Regionals for the right to go to the Women’s College World Series this weekend. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com
A day or two after UCLA’s marriage with Under Armour was signed and sealed, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times that made me stop and think, reminding me of some issues that have always been in my mind.
Bill Plaschke’s column is something that I regularly read, and the one he wrote on May 24th was lamenting not only “…the richest day in UCLA sports history,” it also pointed out something else:
“…Bruins athletics $280 million, Bruins athletes $0. Not that this is news, but man, something is really wrong here.”
This sentiment was heightened by Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen’s subsequent post on Twitter which read,
“We’re still amateurs, though…gotta love non-profits.”
Not to mention Ed O’ Bannon, the leader of UCLA’s last national championship basketball team in 1995, who later filed a lawsuit against the NCAA for using his (and other college athletes) image for various commercial purposes, stating in Plaschke’s article,
“There are men and women doing all this (being student-athletes and the hard work that goes along with that), providing a certain amount of entertainment, making all this money for this school, and some of them are not even allowed to get a job in their major?
“As a human being you should at least be able to go to work, and they can’t even do that.”
Let me emphasize something:
I’m a proud alum of UCLA and a loyal member of Bruin Nation, and I hope no one takes any of this as a diatribe against the school as with other schools having deals worth hundreds of millions like Ohio State’s $252 million and Texas’ $250 million, both with Nike, the Bruins are just keeping up with the Joneses.
But the fact that student-athletes on scholarship have a long history of financial hardships while in school, me hearing and reading stories of what football and basketball players were forced to do to make money as they couldn’t eat their room, board and books, and training table only lasted for so long, reminded me of one thing…
It’s just not fair.
Check out the new logo under the iconic UCLA script, it’s a logo Bruin Nation will be seeing a lot more of very soon. Photo courtesy of dunk360.com
I know, I know; I can hear it all now…
“These athletes are getting a free education (world-class in UCLA’s case)!”
“These athletes are getting free gear, tutoring, priority enrollment in classes, and so many other perks!”
“They will be getting a degree that will be priceless!”
“If they feel they’re being exploited, they didn’t have to take the scholarship as it’s voluntary!”
“These athletes don’t know how good they have it!”
While I don’t disagree with any of those statements, and while no one values a college education more than me, the question that come to mind is,
“If everything’s so Heavenly for these athletes, how come so many of them (if they’re good enough) bail for the pros the minute they are eligible?”
It’s both true and to the NCAA’s credit that they have recently made available stipends to cover the full cost of going to school, not just the academic side, i.e., living expenses and the like.
But it’s still not fair to me that unlike members of the marching band, cheerleaders, and other students, not only are athletes not allowed to make any money using their given skills, they can only make so much at a part-time job as there’s a cap on any earnings they make.
Which during the school year they would have very little time for anyway.
Unlike many fans, surprisingly enough I don’t feel that simply paying the players will solve everything as it would create more of a have and have-not system in college sports, plus it would take 20 Bill Gateses, 20 Warren Buffets, and 20 pairs of Koch brothers to fund all those Division 1 student-athtetes.
And I’m talking both male and female as anything that a football or men’s basketball player gets, a swimmer or a volleyball player should get.
Putting it another way, Katelyn Ohashi, a UCLA gymnast, should get the same amount of money as Rosen if the rules disallowing payments were lifted.
Instead, I have an idea that would go a ways toward satisfying athletes; do these two things and I’ll bet that not only would athletes be happy – or at least happier,
You would see less of them going pro early.
And you would see less cheating and fewer NCAA sanctions as well…
1. Significantly raise the earnings cap that a student-athlete may earn at any job he or she is able to get so they would be better able to meet living expenses, plus be better able to do things that regular students get to do, i.e. go to the movies or eat at a decent restaurant without any clown mascots or paper crowns.
2. Increase the stipends that scholarship athletes get by taking either the money from shoe-apparel deals and all the television deals, totaling into the (probably) hundreds of billions, and putting in a system where freshmen would get so much extra cash a month, then increase it as they become sophomores, juniors, etc.
It doesn’t have to be a huge amount; former Oklahoma All-American linebacker Brian Bosworth, in his book “The Boz”, advocated that freshmen should get $100, sophomores $200, and so on, with the amount of money given uniform for all Division 1 schools.
In other words, a junior San Jose State women’s gymnast would get the exact same amount of money as a junior defensive lineman from national champion Alabama.
And for those crying how it would bankrupt everything..
Make these stipend and earnings cap changes only available to athletes on scholarship, not walk-ons as they would have to earn these perks by being placed on a “scholie” after a certain amount of time.
I understand that some will question this proposal, saying things ranging from how this is flawed because people would still cheat by trying to pay more to how difficult it would be to enforce these policy changes.
But if big men on campus like Josh Rosen are lamenting about how his Bruin athletic department is getting $280 million while he doesn’t even get a shiny penny from that deal,
Not even a crumb from the proverbial rich table sagging with delicious goodies,
Then Plaschke is right.
Something is definitely wrong with this picture.
No explanation necessary. Photo courtesy of sportal.com.nz